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Helene A. Guerber

Sieges of Rome

T HE Goths had scarcely gone when some other barbarians made an invasion, and this time Florence was besieged. The town held out bravely until Stilicho could come to its rescue, and then the invaders were all captured, and either slain or sold into slavery.

Shortly after this, however, Stilicho was murdered by the soldiers whom he had so often led to victory. The news of trouble among the Romans greatly pleased Alaric, the King of the Goths; and, when the money which Stilicho had promised him failed to come, he made a second raid into Italy.

This time Alaric swept on unchecked to the very gates of Rome, which no barbarian army had entered since the Gauls had visited it about eight hundred years before. The walls were very strong, and the Goths saw at once that the city could not be taken by force; but Alaric thought that it might surrender through famine.

A blockade was begun. The Romans suffered greatly from hunger, and soon a pestilence ravaged the city. To bring about the departure of the Goths, the Romans finally offered a large bribe; but, as some of the money was not promptly paid, Alaric came back and marched into Rome.

Again promises were made, but not kept, and Alaric returned to the city a third time, and allowed his men to plunder as much as they pleased. Then he raided all the southern part of Italy, and was about to cross over to Sicily, when he was taken seriously ill and died.

Alaric's brother, Adolphus, now made a treaty with the Romans, and married Placidia, a sister of Honorius. He led the Goths out of Italy, across France, and into Spain, where he founded the well-known kingdom of the Visigoths.

When Adolphus died, his widow, Placidia, married a noble Roman general; and their son, Valentinian III., succeeded his uncle Honorius on the throne of the Western empire. During his reign there were civil wars, and his territory was made still smaller; for Genseric, King of the Vandals, took possession of Africa.

The Huns, in the mean while, had seized the lands once occupied by the Goths; and they now became a united people under their king, Attila, who has been called the "Scourge of God." By paying a yearly tribute to these barbarians, the Romans managed for a time to keep them out of the empire, and induced them thus to pursue their ravages elsewhere.

But after becoming master of most of the territory beyond the Danube and the Rhine, Attila led his hordes of fierce Huns and other barbarians, numbering more than seven hundred thousand men, over the Rhine, and into the very heart of France. There, not far from Châlons, took place one of the fiercest and most important battles of Europe.

Attila was defeated with great loss by the Roman allies; but the next year he led his army over the Alps and down into the fertile plains of Italy. Here Pope Leo, the bishop of Rome, met Attila and induced him to spare Rome and leave Italy, upon condition that the sister of Valentinian should marry him.

This marriage never took place, however, for Attila returned home and married a Gothic princess named Ildico. We are told that she murdered him, on her wedding night, to avenge the death of her family, whom Attila had slain; but some historians say that the king died from bursting a blood vessel.